Just over three weeks ago in Philadelphia, seven teenagers took an important step in realizing their dreams of playing professional hockey as they were drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now, they have descended upon Raleigh with around 20 other prospects and invitees for their first development camp, a week chock-full of on- and off-ice testing, instruction and training.
“I was really anxious to get to the camp and get on the ice,” said defenseman Haydn Fleury, the team’s seventh-overall pick. “It’s been really exciting.”
Revamped just a year ago, the annual development camp offers new prospects their first taste of professional life. The players dress in the Canes’ locker room, train in the same facility and skate on the same ice. They learn from each other, some of whom will begin their professional careers this upcoming season or have already had a brief stint, and take instruction from the Canes’ development and coaching staff, which features a rich history of NHL greats and years of professional experience.
“I’m just looking to come meet all the new guys, meet the staff here and take in as much information as I can,” Fleury said. “Steve Smith and Glen Wesley both had great NHL careers, and they can teach me a lot in the short term. I’m just going to listen to them as much as I can and work hard throughout the week.”
“It’s been a thrill. I was nervous leading up to it, but you hit the ground running when it comes to this,” said defenseman Kyle Jenkins, the team’s seventh-round pick. “We were flying a mile a minute early on. We got up early this morning working hard, and it’s good to get on the ice again and get the feet going. I’m excited for the rest of the week.”
Ultimately, the week is about learning: learning from peers, learning from coaches and learning from professionals.
“I’m just trying to soak in as much information as I can this week to take back to Calgary for the rest of the summer,” Fleury said.
“It’s just a learning curve to see what you’re up against and see what it takes to be a professional,” said winger Warren Foegele, the Canes’ third-round pick. “After playing in prep school, you don’t get to see players like this or this high-intensity competition. It’s a great experience to see other guys and see how I compare to them. I’ll take in as much as I can.”
“A lot of learning: we learn what to expect at the next level, how hard you have to work, how well you have to prepare for each and every drill whether it’s on or off the ice,” Jenkins said. “I’m just looking to put a little dent into what hopefully becomes my pro career.”
“They’re going to learn how to work,” head coach Bill Peters said. “They’re going to learn that we come in and do things right and do things with pace.”
There’s also an element of being able to prove yourself, certainly for the camp invitees but also for the 2014 draft class, who can provide the Canes’ front office and coaching staff with first on-ice impressions since being selected just weeks ago.
“We all start at zero at camp, and whoever works the hardest will earn a spot, so that’s the mentality,” Foegele said.
Peters liked what he saw on day one.
“It was good. A lot of skill and some good size,” he said. “I thought some of the D men were real good moving the puck and had good feet. I thought it was impressive. For a group that has never done anything together, basically, I thought they moved the puck well.”
The remainder of the week will consist of a myriad of activities, including team-building at a ropes course on Tuesday, nutritional instruction on Wednesday, power skating throughout the week and a skills competition on Saturday.
“You get a good foundation for what we’re about as an organization. They also learn from Pete Friesen and about some of the nutritional stuff they’ll go through,” Peters said. “If you’re paying attention and want to get better, this is a good week to do that.”